Roots and Covenants 

As we chose to come to this Earth to progress, our Heavenly Father did not want to leave us without any guidance. Part of why we had to come here was so that we could choose to follow our Saviour Jesus Christ. We make promises to follow Him and try to live a life of His disciple. In return we are promised blessings which will help us to become more like our Heavenly Father and receive eternal life – the ultimate blessing of coming to Earth as part of this plan.

These promises (or covenants) make up a significant part of our life following Jesus Christ. They enable us to receive the strength to complete any challenges or overcome any trials that may come in our way. In 1 Nephi 17:3 we read “And thus we see that the commandments of God must be fulfilled. And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them; wherefore, he did provide means for us while we did sojourn in the wilderness.” Often we can look at Lehi and his family’s journeyings through the wilderness as a parallel to our sojourn in mortality and in the same way we can receive strength from keeping our covenants.

Covenants as Foundations

In the same way, we can compare our covenants to foundations for our life. A well-known verse from Helaman 5:12 helps us to begin to make this link. It says “And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.” As was mentioned before, our covenants (if they are kept) provide us with a strong foundation which can help us continue through this life.

Roots as Foundations

However, it is important to recognise that we have other examples of covenants in the scriptures. In Jacob 5 we read of an extended parable of olive trees. These trees all had roots which we read relate to the covenants found in the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ. An examples is found in verse 36 where it reads ” Nevertheless, I know that the roots are good, and for mine own purpose I have preserved them; and because of their much strength they have hitherto brought forth, from the wild branches, good fruit.” The roots of the Gospel, the covenants which channel the sustaining life of our Saviour, bring sustenance.

Lesson

However, something is important in considering these parables of covenants. Both of them highlight the life-giving elements of our covenants. On the other hand, they also teach us another valuable principle to those to minister to others in the Gospel – the strength of our covenants (of how much we are keeping them) are not visible to others. We can very easily go about our daily lives not strengthening our covenants and those around us may not notice. That it is why it is so important to look to support and strengthen as many as we can – not just those that ask for support or help. So reach out and ask for guidance for who to send that message to or ask how their day is, because you never know when that reaching out may make their day, whoever they are.

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Sabbath Blessing

I had an experience recently about the need to keep the Sabbath Day Holy and the blessings associated with keeping that covenant.

Last Sunday I was anticipated a big week at work (leading a Staff Meeting, lesson observation, largest book scrutiny, twilight meeting) and had worked when I could to prepare on the days before. However, due to the demands of a young family and various other commitments I hadn’t managed to complete everything. As we settled for sacrament meeting it was on my mind, particularly preparing for my lesson, and I reasoned that for one week only it would be ok to do a little bit of work to catch up in the evening – perhaps when everyone in my family had gone to bed so it wouldn’t have impact on time with them.

However, when the meeting began I received a clear prompting – can’t remember whether it was through a talk, a hymn or a simple prompting – but it was clear, to keep the Sabbath holy even though it might be difficult. Then in Priesthood we had a lesson on Obedience based on the lesson found in the President Gordon B Hinckley manual. In this lesson we learnt about not putting anything before God and keeping the Sabbath Holy. I got the message by then.

As such, I did not complete the work required on the Lord’s holy day. However, as I had faith, I did manage to get it done early in the week much quicker than I expected. As well as this, the challenges and outcomes of the week occurred brilliantly and I was so pleased with the results. I have no doubt that the Lord blessed the results of the week and when we keep the Sabbath Day holy he magnifies our efforts.

Temple/Prodigal Son Analogy

Recently I’ve been able to consider my feelings about the Temple and how important it has been in my life. It really is a place where the Spirit of the Lord can feel so close and where peace can be found.

One thing that has been highlighted to me once more is the importance of symbolism. The Temple is a wonderful place to learn but a lot of the lessons taught are symbolic and require guidance from the Spirit to support our understanding. I explored a little into Parables – these are great examples of the way that the Lord teaches through examples, symbols and analogies.

We know the parable of the prodigal son begins with children who are due an inheritance from a wealthy father. The prodigal son asks for his inheritance early and then goes and spends it all on material, temporary possessions. I want to focus in on this part of the parable as an example of the Temple and how it can play a comforting and integral role in our lives. In Luke 15:17-19 we read:

“17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!

18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,

19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.”

We often may feel like this. I was asked to prepare a talk about being worthy to enter the Temple. Of course it was important to cover the necessary conditions that are required to enter the Temple. The Lord’s House is set apart, sanctified, to enable it to be such a spiritual place for a reason. However, I was also keenly aware of the need to avoid falling into the trap of thinking that we cannot be good enough. I think this is sometimes more of an issue. I have met so many people who feel that they are not good enough to enter the Temple but often it is because they are comparing themselves to the Lord’s perfect standard. We are not required to be perfect yet. We need to be living our covenants and striving to keep the Lord’s standard but, if we can answer the questions the Lord has set as the yardstick to enter the Temple, then we are good enough.

We must make the decision to enter as soon as we can. The words of the parable continue (Luke 15:20-21):

“20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.

21 And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.”

Once we have the faith to act, we go before the Lord’s appointed servants and the Lord Himself and aim to go to our Father’s House. We return back home. We see the Father’s (and I imagine our Father’s) reaction in the following verses (Luke 15:22-24):

“22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:

23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:

24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.”

I can imagine this. Our Heavenly Father seeing His children gathering at His home and welcoming them all. We feel of this ‘best robe’ when we enter the welcoming, warm entrance to the Temple. It is almost as if He wraps us in His arms of comfort when we enter for those blissful hours we worship in that Holy place. The prodigal child returns – as we enter back into His presence to make the decisions and covenants we make in the Temple.

Temple/Sabbath Connection

The Sabbath Day is a wonderful thing. However, it is one of those aspects of living the Gospel of Christ that can be either be missed out on or bring great blessings. The concept of a holy day in religion is almost universal and clearly has importance to a number of groups of faith and again, is observed differently by various cultures.

The Sabbath Day

The law of the Sabbath has been in force since the time of Moses and probably even further before. We read in Exodus 20:8 “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.” The Sabbath Day has been recognised since the creation of the Earth. This will be why many religions observe a ‘holy day’, whichever day that is for them.

Typically, the Sabbath is a day of devotion to spiritual matters. Often referred to as a day of rest (“Six days thou shalt do thy work, and on the seventh day thou shalt rest…” Exodus 23:12), we are encouraged to avoid our work in our career on the Sabbath – as much as possible, of course some jobs require working on the Sabbath. However, every possible effort should be made to avoid it. Also, the Sabbath is an opportunity to focus on the things of the Lord. The Lord told us that people would be blessed “that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it…” (Isaiah 56:2). Considering the imagery used of ‘keeping unspotted from the world’, this applies to focusing activities on the Saviour or with the family.

Recently I was shown this connection between the Sabbath and the Temple also. In D&C 109:13, we read this plea to the Lord in the Kirtland Dedicatory Prayer ” And that all people who shall enter upon the threshold of the Lord’s house may feel thy power, and feel constrained to acknowledge that thou hast sanctified it, and that it is thy house, a place of thy holiness.” From this extract of this important revelation, we learn that the House of the Lord is sanctified. To ‘sanctify’ something means to set apart as or declare as holy. The Temple is a sacred, holy place where the Spirit of the Lord can be truly unrestrained. Worshipping in this sanctified place enables us to come a little bit closer to our Father in Heaven.

We can then link this right back to a verse from the Old Testament, right back to when the Sabbath was first ‘set apart’. In Genesis 2:1-3 we read “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.” The seventh day – the day of the Sabbath – was sanctified and set apart to represent and give thanks for the Lord and His mercy to create the Earth in which we live.

There is a link here between the Temple and the Sabbath. Both have been sanctified for our benefit. Both are set apart for worship and sacred ordinances (this is vital). Both are for us to align our lives and wills in line with the Lord’s life and will. As we strive to live the Sabbath Day more fully, with just as much focus as we do to be ready to enter the Temple, then we can find great strength and guidance from the Lord.

The Temple: The University

I have recently begun teaching a few lessons of the Temple Preparation Course for a couple of people preparing to enter the sacred Temple. It has been a great opportunity for a number of reasons: I have had the chance to reconsider my commitment to covenants made in the House of the Lord, I have been able to share my testimony of the important ordinances that we engage in at the Temple and discussing the scriptures and quotes from General Authorities linked to this holy place.

I was aware of this quote by Elder David A Bednar which says “There are pre-requisites in many forms of life. You cannot take advanced courses in chemistry until you have mastered the basics. And the same thing is true of the Lord’s university. You have to meet the pre-requisites. Anyone can come if they are willing to abide by those commitments.” As we were discussing the importance of the ordinances and covenants in the Temple, we were beginning to discuss how the Temple provides an opportunity for higher learning, further education and greater blessings. As we went down this train of thought, the understanding of the Temple being the Lord’s University rang ever more true to me.

In our educational lives as children we begin in settings where we are almost led by the hand in our learning. Yes, of course, we are encouraged to search certain things out for ourselves but we are given a lot of models for learning – for example, teachers model how to read, how to count, how to write and so on. We can compare this to when we take our first steps towards baptism and then those first few steps as a new convert.

As we progress in the educational world, we advance until we reach a higher level of schooling – secondary school in the UK, maybe middle and high school in the USA and other equivalents across the world. In these settings, we are still expected to attend. We are taught a curriculum. However, we are expected to progress ourselves and identify areas where we are to improve. The equivalent in a Gospel sense is when we progress through from being a new convert towards to the time when we are preparing to enter the Temple. We are still supported and led by caring leaders towards our next destination – the Temple but we are expected to take on more – such as home/visiting teaching, callings and other duties.

After this, in the education system, you then make the step to higher education – university. At this level of learning, you are given some input but suddenly you are expected to be even more self-sufficient. You could not turn up to lectures, do little study and still get some sort of result. However, the level of your achievement will likely correlate with the amount you put in whether you attend sessions, whether you engage in wider reading and so on. And so is the same with the Temple. Once you have received your endowments and other covenants from the Temple, you could make it through the rest of your life without ever attending again, not fully engaging in your covenants and do ok. However, if you attend the Temple more, live your promises fully and so on – we receive more light and inspiration. The Temple is the Lord’s university because, yes we receive great knowledge, but also it is down to us to engage and learn as much as we can.

I was grateful for this discussion – it helped me open my eyes more to the importance of the Temple and the blessings in store as we enter those holy doors more.

Separation and Unification

Recently I was led to study the principle of unification and separation within the Gospel of Christ. This was something taught in recent Ward Conferences in my Stake but I have looked into this more and will try and explain my ramblings in some sort of sensible order!

What is Separation?

Separation is defined as “the action or state of moving or being moved apart” or, even better “the division of something into constituent or distinct elements”. Separation means that things, or objects that were previously together are broken into different, unique parts of the previous whole.
Separation takes a number of forms and happens in a variety of ways in the world we live in. Examples of separation include, but are not limited to:

  • National separations
  • Separation within countries of language
  • Race
  • Culture
  • Religion
  • Distance
  • Time
  • Generations

In most of these circumstances, separation can be seen as a hurdle or a barrier between quality relationships. For example, the people of Mosiah were taught by King Benjamin about Christ and they had all covenanted to live a Gospel life – however this standard was not upheld by all of the rising generation (another example of separation between generations). We read “And they would not be baptized; neither would they join the church. And they were a separate people as to their faith, and remained so ever after, even in their carnal and sinful state; for they would not call upon the Lord their God.” (Mosiah 26:4) The people began to be separated in their faith. As such they had more contention and problems which led to Alma leaving his judgement seat he was voted to in Alma 1 to go out and preach the word of the Lord.

However, there is more to separation and it’s opposite, unification.

How does Separation Fit into the Plan of Salvation?

Separation plays a key role in Heavenly Father’s plan for his children. From the very beginning we were with Heavenly Father but we decided to become separated for a future goal, which will be brought forward later. This physical separation from our Heavenly Father was important. We now live on this Earth with a physical body which houses our spirit (unified together).

As we go through life, we will eventually experience the opposite, death. Death is defined in the Bible Dictionary as this:
Two kinds of death are spoken of in the scriptures. One is the death of the body, which is caused by the separation of the body from the spirit; “The body without the spirit is dead” (James 2:26). The other is spiritual death, which is to die as pertaining to, or to be separated from, righteousness—to be alienated from the things of God (Alma 12:16, 32; 40:26).

We had to leave the presence of the Father in order to progress. In the same pattern, Adam and Eve had to fall (become separated) from the Garden of Eden in order for mankind to live and have joy. Also, once we reach the end of our mortal probation, it is true that we all will die physically, which involves a number of separations: body and spirit, family members and separation from the Earth are just some examples. Separation plays vital parts in Heavenly Father’s plan.

Is Separation Necessary?

The short answer – yes. There are a number of times, linked with the Plan of Happiness but also for other reason, when separation is needed.

In Alma 3:14 we read of the example of the Lamanites and Nephites. These two great nations were constantly at odds with one another. From the inception of the two separate groups, there was always a clear reason why this separation had to happen. This is what we read “Thus the word of God is fulfilled, for these are the words which he said to Nephi: Behold, the Lamanites have I cursed, and I will set a mark on them that they and their seed may be separated from thee and thy seed, from this time henceforth and forever, except they repent of their wickedness and turn to me that I may have mercy upon them.” In this case, this very literal and physical separation was to protect the Lord’s covenant people. There is some issue raised about ‘the mark’ that the Lord placed upon the Lamanites and what this means about race. Whilst others will have their view and continue to voice that, I take this as simply an example of pragmatic guidance from the Lord. Simply – see those people that look different to your people, avoid them because they hate your people and also their traditions would lead you away from the Gospel path. Here – the separation protected the Nephites physically but also spiritually.

In Alma 5:57 we read of a much more figurative, or spiritual, application to the necessity of some separation. Alma teaches “And now I say unto you, all you that are desirous to follow the voice of the good shepherd, come ye out from the wicked, and be ye separate, and touch not their unclean things; and behold, their names shall be blotted out, that the names of the wicked shall not be numbered among the names of the righteous, that the word of God may be fulfilled, which saith: The names of the wicked shall not be mingled with the names of my people;” The people taught by Alma were not only encouraged to separate from the wicked but told to be separate and touch not their unclean things. Now of course, it would be difficult for the believers to physically gather away from all non-believers – perhaps this refers more to the state that we are expected to live in today, being in the world but not of the world. However this guidance was implied, it is another example of where separation is needed.

The above applied also when the Saviour came to visit the Americas. He said to them “But, verily, I say unto you that the Father hath commanded me, and I tell it unto you, that ye were separated from among them because of their iniquity; therefore it is because of their iniquity that they know not of you.” (3 Nephi 15:19) This is similar to the other two examples but another example of when separation is used in the Lord’s ministering with His children of the covenant.

Perhaps the most drastic example of separating covenant people from the wicked is the people of Enoch who were literally taken from the Earth to dwell in the presence of the Lord. We read of this in D&C 45:12 “Who were separated from the earth, and were received unto myself—a city reserved until a day of righteousness shall come—a day which was sought for by all holy men, and they found it not because of wickedness and abominations;” This and the other examples show that separation does not always mean a negative thing completely. However, in every example found in the scriptures, separation was only used to protect the righteous from the wicked. On a personal level, separation is not good news.  

How is Separation Overcome?

We need to avoid separation between nations. Separation can lead to weakening of the whole. We see an example of this in Alma 31:2 when Alma was sorrowful with the separation of the Zoramites from the Nephites. We read “For it was the cause of great sorrow to Alma to know of iniquity among his people; therefore his heart was exceedingly sorrowful because of the separation of the Zoramites from the Nephites.” Alma was sorrowful because of this separation. He knew that it would have a negative impact on the Nephites (probably due to the degenerating spirituality of the Zoramites and the danger of them joining the Lamanites) and the negative impact on the individual Zoramites themselves. Separation can be a danger to both sides.

We need to avoid separation between neighbourhoods. We need to avoid separation between families. However, more importantly, we have to avoid separation within ourselves. One important way we have to avoid separation is between our thoughts and where we are at now, where our body is if you will. For example, if we are at a sacrament meeting and renewing our covenants, our sacred promises with the Lord where we can receive great spiritual promptings, but our mind is elsewhere then we miss out on a great experience.

However, the most dangerous separation we have to overcome is that of the separation of body and spirit. We know from D&C 93:34 that “And when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy.” Of course, fortunately we do not have to overcome this separation ourselves. Our merciful Saviour, Jesus Christ, has made it so that we will have our spirit and body unite again.

However, what can we do to unite our mind and body, our families and those around us? We have to work at it. The interesting thing about separation and unification is that one of them happens naturally, and it is not unification. Unification takes effort, separation can happen naturally in a degenerative manner. So work at unifying your family, your friends – because unification brings power and strength. 

What is Unification?

The power of unification is potent. Mosiah 18:21 describes how people who take upon themselves sacred covenants can unify together. Alma taught “And he commanded them that there should be no contention one with another, but that they should look forward with one eye, having one faith and one baptism, having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another.” This is the template for congregations in the Church. We often debate how wards can be stronger in love and service. This is it. Of course, seeing it in practice is much more difficult but this is the target. The covenant of baptism is a call to unite “And it came to pass in the seventh year of the reign of the judges there were about three thousand five hundred souls that united themselves to the church of God and were baptized. And thus ended the seventh year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi; and there was continual peace in all that time.” (Alma 4:5) We can keep the commandments, study the scriptures, worship at the temple all we can. However, if we do not unite, support and love one another in these activities we are missing out on great blessings.

As I was studying the Topical Guide for the word ‘Unification’, I came across this reference in Helaman 1:6 which says “And it came to pass that Pacumeni, when he saw that he could not obtain the judgment-seat, he did unite with the voice of the people.” This intrigued me. I wondered how this reference could shed any more light on unity. As I pondered over this I realised that this shows an example of how unity can bring peace. In the experience we find this reference, the Nephites are at a crossroads. The great war between the Nephites and Lamanites had passed and the chief judge that had led the way, Pahoran, had passed away. They needed a new chief judge and three of Pahoran’s sons vied for the position. When the victor, Pahoran (Jnr), was voted by the voice of the people, Pacumeni decided to unite with the voice of the people. He chose unity. Had his action been reciprocated by the other forerunner then the Nephites may have lived a very different lifestyle in the years to come. However, Paanchi did not, he chose separation. He called upon Kishkumen, an assassin presumably, and killed Pahoran. As the account continues, this Kishkumen becomes the original leader and initiator of – the Gadianton robbers. We will come back to this band at the end.

How does Unification fit into the Plan of Salvation?

As with separation however, I wanted to look at how unity or unification is used in the great plan of happiness. Recently in my studies and worshipping at the Temple I was thinking about this and the examples of unification are rife within the Plan of Salvation – more so than separation. In Genesis and the book of Moses we read the Creation account and the account of the Fall. I list just a few examples of unification here in these processes:

  • “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep…” (Genesis 1:2) We also know the Earth itself was created out of matter, not just out of thin air, and this matter had to be organised, or united together
  • “And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1:9-10) Unifying of waters and land
  • “And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind…” (Genesis 1:21) Unifying of creatures on the Earth to gather together, each after their kind
  • “And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (Genesis 2:21-24) This was a very interesting one. Again, I do not fully understand how man and woman were formed. Was it literally a rib from the side of man? I don’t profess to understand yet. However, there is this we can gather – there was a separation and then unification. Separation of ‘rib’ from man and then unification of man and woman – this unification is important for us each individually for eternal marriage and families are part of God’s plan

I could go on with this example but I have picked out a few that stood out. The Creation and the Fall make up two pillars of this Plan of Salvation. The third and final intergral part is the great unification, the grand reconciliation. In fact, the Plan of Salvation itself is an example of “Unification -> Separation -> Unification” for after the adverse effects of the Fall, the Atonement of Jesus Christ makes all things possible to be brought together in the end. In Alma 11:45 we read “Now, behold, I have spoken unto you concerning the death of the mortal body, and also concerning the resurrection of the mortal body. I say unto you that this mortal body is raised to an immortal body, that is from death, even from the first death unto life, that they can die no more; their spirits uniting with their bodies, never to be divided; thus the whole becoming spiritual and immortal, that they can no more see corruption.” This is why we worship our Saviour, our Redeemer. He makes unification between us and God, us and our families and us and our bodies possible. Without His great sacrifice then separation would become permanent and whilst separation is sometimes necessary in God’s plan, it is ultimately a state we wish to avoid.

When is Unification Dangerous?

Of course, as unification is so powerful, it is something that the adversary, along with every other useful and good thing that he can, uses to try and shake us from our faith. In 3 Nephi 6:27-28 we read of an occasion (and this is not the only example in the history of the Earth and mankind) where a unification happened that caused danger for everyone else involved. We read “Now it came to pass that those judges had many friends and kindreds; and the remainder, yea, even almost all the lawyers and the high priests, did gather themselves together, and unite with the kindreds of those judges who were to be tried according to the law. And they did enter into a covenant one with another, yea, even into that covenant which was given by them of old, which covenant was given and administered by the devil, to combine against all righteousness. Therefore they did combine against the people of the Lord, and enter into a covenant to destroy them, and to deliver those who were guilty of murder from the grasp of justice, which was about to be administered according to the law.” This unification caused monumental issues for the people of the Americas. In fact it caused the Nephite government and civilisation to crumble and separate into tribes rather than one united people.

If we are not careful, then we can allow the adversary and his followers to unite against us and separate us from our Saviour. However, we can use the principle of unification to combat against this foe. We find this just a couple of years later in the same people mentioned before who had Christ visit them. “And it came to pass that as the disciples of Jesus were journeying and were preaching the things which they had both heard and seen, and were baptizing in the name of Jesus, it came to pass that the disciples were gathered together and were united in mighty prayer and fasting.” (3 Nephi 27:1) As we unite as disciples of Christ and strive to live a life patterned after Him, then we can find the strength to resist the wiles of Satan and overcome the world – but unifying will be vital for this to happen, not becoming separate.

Blessings of Ministering

My wife loves animals, has studied Conservation and Zoo Biology at University and currently is in employment working with animals and teaching others about animals. It’s because of this frequent interaction with animals (having gone to a zoo or aquarium pretty much every holiday we’ve been on, including our honeymoon) that I have come to think about this topic in this way… 

In the animal kingdom there have been studies into natural altruism between animals. Altruism, as defined by behavioural psychologists, is an incident where someone or some creature performs an action for another without any benefit. For example, wolves have been studied saving meat acquired from a hunt for other adult wolves that were not present for the hunt. Ravens have been spotted calling other ravens to a feast they have come across. Walruses have even been seen adopting a younger walrus whose parents have been caught by a predator. In all these incidents, the giver does not receive any return from that act – it is an altruistic act. Even if the person or animal does the deed with no thought for reward or gain, if they do receive a reward, it is not a completely altruistic act according to behavioural psychologists.

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we believe that there are no completely altruistic acts.

Let me explain. When we serve (or minister) in this great work of salvation, we receive blessings. Of course, those blessings should never be our main motivator – nevertheless, we will receive blessings.

There are three areas in our lives that ministering to others has blessed me personally in, and can bless all of us if we elect to serve God with all our heart, might, mind and strength.

Me (The Giver)

As mentioned, there are a great number of individual blessings available to the soul who gives up, sacrifices, their time for the building of the Kingdom of God on the Earth. I will focus on the ultimate blessing we will receive – for we receive an outpouring of blessings – as we fulfil our covenant we make at baptism to ‘take upon ourselves the name of Christ’.

What does taking upon ourselves the name of Christ have to do with ministering? Everything! Christ was the ultimate Minister – He Himself said:

For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)

As such, when we promise and make the assurance we will be willing to take upon ourselves the name of Christ, we declare we intend to become like Him. Therefore, we MUST minister!

I wish to illustrate this briefly with a parable by the Master Teacher – the Parable of the Talents. This parable applies directly to this principle. We can recognise the Master in the Parable as our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We are the servants. If we are not slothful but minister as the Saviour expects us to we produce results, or fruits (in the case of the parable, talents). Now, this is not to say that in order to be a successful minister we have to double the attendance in our Quorum, or double the number of people going to the Temple to worship – although that would be marvellous. The result of our efforts could simply be ourselves coming closer to the Lord and developing our own talents. When the two servants who received their talents, worked and were successful – note the response of their Master (imagine our Lord saying this to you):

Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. (Matthew 25:21)

Notice the difference between the servant’s status before and after his work (or ministering). Before, he simply owned the talents for a season (or in our case this represents what we do with our time, talents, possessions etc. on the Earth) but then, he was made a ruler over many things – he became the owner, he gained dominion – what does this represent for us. It is eternal life, the greatest of all gifts of God (see D&C 14:7).

Marriage

I love my wife eternally. There is no one who I would rather spend time with. She is my eternal companion, the spectacular mother of our children and my best friend. However, when I minister as an Elders Quorum President, that takes away time I get to spend with her. So, how can ministering in the Kingdom possibly strengthen my marriage, or indeed any marriages of devout members who minister?

Allow me to illustrate this, this time with an example from our own marriage. Early on in our marriage I was serving as the Young Men’s President in our Ward whilst my wife was serving as the Primary President in our Ward (…we didn’t have any young children demanding our time at this point as you may have guessed). As such, we were required to be ministering in either calling most evenings in the week. On top of this Chrissie was working through her final year of University while I was adapting to my first year of University. For a young couple who had only recently been married a few months before, surely this demand on our time would not be a benefit to us in strengthening our marriage? However, it was. As my wife and I came away from our ministering to our home, we were filled with the Spirit. We supported each other in our calls and we saw each other grow and develop.

Even now with two young children, we are finding ways of ministering together. This recently has been accomplished mainly through our Family History efforts  – over the past two weeks my dear wife has discovered 62 individuals who have been submitted for baptism (I can’t help but praise her at every opportunity). Through this ministering we have found our marriage relationship enhanced – I firmly believe and testify that as couples find ways to serve and minister they are blessed. It may be difficult, but for now, and the eternities, it will strengthen your relationship and increase your happiness as you invite the third companion of your marriage through your service – Jesus Christ.

Family

Finally, ministering in the Gospel can strengthen your family. Again, some might question this considering that ministering takes you away from your family. When I leave my two children, how am I strengthening my relationship with them? However, as with marriage relationships, family relationships can be strengthened.

The scriptures are brimming with examples of this – Lehi->Nephi (I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father… 1 Nephi 2:16), Abraham->Isaac (Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. Genesis 22:9), Jacob->Enos (the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into my heart. Enos 1:3) and many more!

I, however, could not make mention of being examples of ministering without mentioning my upbringing. My Dad served as a Stake President between when I was the age of 11 and 21 – the formative years of my Gospel life for me personally. Let me say this now – there were not many evenings I got to see my Dad: Monday was FHE (good), Tuesday meant Stake Councils in some form or another, on Wednesday my brother and I were at Youth and Dad was the Taxi service, Thursday’s were Institute and Interviews night, Fridays and Saturdays depended very much on the week (sometimes there were activities or Stake events that required attendance) and Sundays probably one in four Sundays Dad would be home in the evening (after being out at 7am in the morning and returning home at around 3pm…and the one Sunday evening a month I would be at a Youth Fireside)…

However, my Dad remains to this day as one of my inspirations in my life. Why? I barely got to see him at home…there can be only one answer – his example as a disciple of Christ. Notice I did not say “his example as a Stake President, or a Priesthood Leader, or even as a very busy man”. It was not his calling that inspired me, but his willingness to serve and minister. In his case, it just so happened to be as a Stake President. But for anyone, it may be a case of being a dedicated home teacher for a family who a struggling to be self-reliant spiritually. Your calling does not affect the impact you can have on your family; you have to simply be an example. Ministering to others (in whatever shape or form we do) strengthens our family. As mentioned in the scriptural examples, it is  the example we set of a disciple of Christ, and seeing the joy it brings us.